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Aggregates and their properties in

Presented by:

Prof. Mark Alexander

Concrete Materials and Structural Integrity Research Unit

Department of Civil Engineering

University of Cape Town

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Presentation outline

• To follow
Introduction: Concrete aggregates
• Aggregate definition: ‘mineral constituents of concrete in granular or
particulate form, usually comprising fine and coarse fractions’
- a ‘natural conglomerate’
• Volumetrically, aggregates occupy 70-80% of concrete, and so MUST
have a profound influence on concrete properties.
− Paste is not an engineering material – concrete is!
• Approx. 0.75 ton of concrete aggregate consumed per capita per annum
• How do we view aggregates?
− Outdated view: simply an inert filler, used mainly for bulk
− Reality: each constituent of concrete is important, with their
interactions giving the composite engineering material response
• Focus in this presentation on natural aggregates – increasingly in short

Aggregates make concrete ‘fit-for-purpose - imparting to

• Volumetric stability
• Thermal expansion compatibility with reinforcing steel
• Stiffness, strength and toughness
• Durability
• Ease of use
• Cost-efficiency
Overview of aggregates and their role in concrete
Concrete exists in two key states:
• Plastic state – fresh
concrete, first hour or so of
• Hardened state – the rest of its life!

• What happens in the plastic state, and the first few hours or days of
the hardened state, negatively or positively affect concrete for the
rest of its life!

• Volumetric reality of aggregates in concrete:

Overview of aggregates and their role in concrete
Plastic state
• Concrete properties affected by aggregates
− Workability & Consistence
Hence: water requirement
− Cohesiveness, flowability
− Settlement & bleeding
− Plastic shrinkage potential

• Water requirement mainly governed by aggregates:

Stone: average particle size; packing capacity (shape & grading);
surface texture

Sand: particle shape, surface texture, grading, ultra-fines scientific

Overview of aggregates and their role in concrete
Plastic state
In scientific terms: above relates to the rheology of concrete
• Rheology primarily a function of the paste properties, modified by
the presence of aggregate particles
• Describe the Bingham curve briefly.

• Some suitable pics

• Maybe a background appropriate pic
Overview of aggregates and their role in concrete
Hardened state
• List properties critically affected by aggregates
– Concrete strength – compressive and tensile
– Density
– Concrete fracture properties and toughness
– Wear properties
– Concrete deformation properties; volumetric stability
– Thermal properties
– Durability
Topics covered:
 Phases of concrete
 Concrete properties affected by aggregates
• Strength
• Deformations (‘Movement’ properties)
• Durability
Phases in concrete and their role
• Hardened concrete consists of 3 phases (simplistically):
– Hardened cement paste (HCP, C-S-H)
– Aggregates
– Interface between the paste and aggregate ; Interfacial
Transition Zone or ‘ITZ’
Simplistic 2- phase models of concrete
Schematic: interfacial transition zone - ITZ

C-S-H + FH3
CH + C3AH6 +Aft + AFm

Anhydrous cement

(a) (b) (c)

Unpercolated, Unpercolated, Percolated,
discrete Some continuous continuous ITZ
Influence of Aggregate Properties:
• Aggregate Type
• Aggregate Strength
• Aggregate-Paste Bond Strength & Influence of ITZ
• Aggregate Size & Shape
• Aggregate Surface Texture
• Aggregate Elastic Modulus
• Relative Effects of Shape, Surface Texture, and Elastic
Modulus of the Aggregate
• Binder Type in Combination with Aggregate Type
• Aggregate Grading and Coarse Aggregate Packing
Duff Abram’s original (1918) w/c ratio law for concrete strength
stated that :
‘For a given cement and conventional aggregates in
workable mixtures, under similar conditions of
placement, curing and test, the strength of concrete is
solely a function of the ratio of cement to the free
water in the plastic mixture’ (Abrams, 1918)
(Italics for emphasis).

i.e. Aggregate: ‘inert filler’ concept

Over-simplification – aggregates do have a profound

influence on hardened concrete properties.

• Chemical bonding
It is probable that no aggregate is truly ‘inert’, i.e. all
aggregates interact chemically with cement paste to
some degree

• Physical bonding
This is mainly a function of micro- and macro-texture,
with micro-texture often being more important
Cement paste – aggregate bond
Cement paste – aggregate bond
E.g. effect of Gauteng andesite aggregates on concrete strength

Andesite surface
Quartzite surface

Strength premiums of andesite concrete over quartzite concrete (Alexander & Ballim, 1987)
Age Percentage increase in strength
(d) for w/c ratio
0.83 0.56 0.42
Cube Compressive 28 28% 23% 17%
Indirect Tensile 28 19% 24% 18%
Modulus of Rupture 35 16% 27% 9%
Cement paste
– aggregate

Effect of
ITZ - interfacial
transition zone
• Strongly influences bond between paste and aggregate
– weaker more porous ITZs represent surfaces of
weakness and low bond strength

• Influences interaction between paste and aggregate –

stiffer ITZ allows greater mobilisation of aggregate
properties such as intrinsic strength & stiffness
Influence of ITZ vs. pozzolanic effect in concrete:
concept of ‘filler effect’
Aggregate type – from SA work on various aggregates

Influence of aggregates on:

• Stress-strain relationships
• Aggregates and elastic deformations
• Prediction of concrete elastic modulus incorporating
aggregate effects
• Long-term deformations – shrinkage and creep
• Thermal strains
Schematic of stress-strain
behaviour for granite and
andesite concrete at
different ages
(From Alexander & Milne, 1995)
Comparison of phase models for Elastic Modulus
(From Fulton’s Concrete Technology, 1994)
E aggregate
Elastic Modulus of Composite Material

Parallel model

PROBLEM: neglects the important

Hirsch model effect of the ITZ!

Series model

Counto model
E paste Hashin & Hobbs model

0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0. 0.8 0.9 1.0

Aggregate Volume Concentration - Va

Elastic modulus – cube strength relationship for
dolomite concrete for ages from 3 - 28 days
Static Elastic Modulus (GPa)

Relationship between
static elastic modulus
and cube strength of
concrete for different
aggregate types
Cube Strength (MPa)
Increase in elastic modulus of dolomite concrete from
28 days to 6 months – effect of ITZ alteration with time?
Predictive relationship for elastic modulus as function
of concrete compressive strength, allowing for
aggregate type:

Ec = K0 + βfcu

K0 = Aggregate stiffness factor
β = Aggregate interaction factor
Values for estimating elastic modulus of concrete for ages (a)
from 3 - 28 days, and (b) six months or older (SA aggregates)
(From Fulton’s Concrete Technology, 2001)

Design Values: Ec = K0 + fcu

South African (a) 3 - 28 days (b) six months and older
Aggregate Type
K0 (GPa)  (GPa/MPa) K0 (GPa)  (GPa/MPa)
Andesites 25-26 0.30 35-36 0.20
Dolerites 15-22 0.40 29-39 0.15
Dolomites 24-25 0.45 43-49 0.20
Felsites 18-21 0.35 29-31 0.20
Granites 17-21 0.25 25-34 0.10
Greywacke 24 0.25 31 0.20
Quartzites 17-23 0.25 28-35 0.15
Siltstone 21 0.15 27 0.10

Influence of aggregates on shrinkage and creep

primarily due to two effects:
• Dilution effect - the more aggregate in a mix, the
lower the creep and shrinkage
• Restraint effect - due to the stiffness of the
aggregate which restrains the paste movement,
provided aggregate is stiffer than paste.
Dilution effect:
Effect of aggregate concentration on shrinkage of concrete –
dilution effect
Restraint effect:
Effect of aggregate modulus (stiffness) on shrinkage of concrete
– restraint effect
shrinkage for a
range of (S.A.)
aggregate types
Effect of aggregate
stiffness on creep of
concrete – also restraint
Relative creep for a
range of (S.A.)
aggregate types
Total strains (elastic + shrinkage + creep) under sustained
compressive stress fig of 5.38
5 MPa versus concrete elastic

Total Strain (10-6)




30 35 40 45 50 55
Concrete E (GPa)
Aggregate Coefficient of thermal
expansion of concrete
(x10-6/ oC)
Basalt 9.3
Blastfurnace slag 10.6
Chert 13.2
Dolerite 9.5
Dolerite (SA) 7.5 – 8.0
Dolomite (SA) 8.5 – 9.0
Felsite (SA) 9.0
Granite (SA) 8.0 – 9.5
Granite and rhyolite 6.8 – 9.5 Effect of
Limestone 6.1 – 9.9 aggregate type on
Malmesbury hornfels (SA) 10.0 – 11.0 coefficient of
Marble 4.1 thermal
Quartz 10.4 expansion of
Quartzite 12.8 concrete
Quartzite (SA) 9.5 – 12.0
Sandstone 11.7
Thermal expansion of concrete having different
aggregate types and contents
• make a substantial contribution to concrete durability by
normally being durable, hard, and longwearing
• reduce the cementitious paste component, which is
susceptible to deterioration being more thermodynamically
• are more resistant to external aggressive attack and are
usually less permeable than the matrix
• may, however, in certain cases exhibit properties that
render them susceptible to deterioration and thus
compromise concrete durability.
• in other cases, may be susceptible to attack from external
Matrix of deterioration mechanisms relating to
aggregates in concrete
Physical Mechanisms Chemical Mechanisms

Dimensional Incompatibility:- Alkali Aggregate Reaction

Intrinsic  Thermal effects Sulphides in aggregates
Mechanisms  Moisture effects Thaumasite sulphate attack

Freeze-Thaw Acid Attack

Surface Wetting and Drying Alkali Attack
Extrinsic (Moisture Cycles) Other Aggressive
Mechanisms Surface Abrasion and Chemicals,
Erosion e.g. Sulphates
Alkali Aggregate Reaction

• Alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR) - chemical reaction

between alkalis in matrix and reactive components of
• First observed in USA in 1920s; pioneering research
done on mechanism by Stanton in USA in 1940
• Deterioration of concrete structures due to AAR
observed in many countries: Australia, Canada, China,
Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand,
South Africa, UK, and USA.
Alkali Aggregate Reaction
• AAR - Chemical reaction between alkalis in matrix and
reactive components of aggregates
• AAR usually results in formation of a gel which, in presence of
sufficient moisture, swells, causes internal expansion with
extensional strains > tensile strain capacity of concrete -
• External evidence of damage in form of micro-and macro-
cracking within matrix and aggregates.
• Cracking becomes evident several years after construction
and reaction may continue for many years
Alkali Aggregate Reaction

Reactive silica (aggregate) reacts

with alkali in cement

Formation of silica gel at

aggregate surface

In presence of moisture:

Result: tensile stresses

Alkali Aggregate Reaction
• Typical appearance:
- Random crack pattern
(“surface map cracking”)
- White rim around
- Large crack widths

• Time: might take years to


• Structural effects: loss of

strength and stiffness,
cracking, deflections
Alkali Aggregate Reaction

Surface cracking of (a) haunch of portal
structure and (b) column of bridge structure
due to AAR (latter photo courtesy of Y Ballim)
Alkali Aggregate Reaction

Appearance of ASR in core drilled from

bridge structure in previous slide
Directional AAR cracking – parallel
mainly to major stress system

(Photo courtesy of Prof Ballim, University of Witwatersrand)

Three main types of AAR – depending on nature of aggregates

Alkali-Silica Reaction (ASR)

• Reactions between alkaline pore solution and metastable forms of
volcanic glasses, cristobalite, tridymite, and opal; alternatively
aggregates comprising chert, chalcedony, microcrystalline quartz,
cryptocrystalline quartz, or strained quartz
• Occurs in rocks such as greywacke, quartzite, hornfels, phyllite,
argillite, granite, granite-gneiss, granodiorite, etc.
• Essential feature is a reactive form of silica (amorphous or altered form)
that is not chemically stable
• ASR is associated with formation of expansive alkali-silica gel in
Distinctive features of ASR in (a) broken chunk of concrete
and (b) sliced core. (Latter photograph courtesy of Y Ballim)
Note aggregate reaction rims, white staining, cracks through aggregate and matrix

(a) (b)
Three main types of AAR – depending on nature of aggregates
Alkali-Silicate Reaction
• Differentiates ASR from reactions involving aggregates such as
greywacke and argillite found in Nova Scotia, Canada
• Reaction surmised to involve expansion and exfoliation of certain
clay minerals (phyllosilicates)
Alkali-Carbonate-Rock Reaction (ACR)
• Does not produce a gel
• Coarse aggregate particles expand due to alkali hydroxides
reacting with small dolomite crystals in a clay matrix, resulting in
• Limited to carbonate aggregate containing clay, such as certain
argillaceous dolomitic limestones or argillaceous calcitic dolostones
• ACR not widespread, encountered mainly in Canada
Mechanism of ASR

1.The high pH in the cement paste promotes the hydrolysis of


Si-O-Si + H OH Si-OH + Si-OH

Aggregate paste

2. Si-OH react with the paste to form Si-O-

3. Si-O, acting as a Lewis base, adsorbs Na, K and Ca to form a


Source – P.K. Mehta and P.J.M. Monteiro, Concrete: Microstructure, Properties and Materials
Necessary conditions for ASR
• Primary source is cement or binder - metal alkalis of NaOH and
KOH, plus Ca(OH)2
– Recall: alkalis characterised by equivalent sodium oxide (as % by mass
of cement)
%Na20 eq = %Na20 + 0,658 x %K20
• Cements with Na20eq > 0.6 % - ‘high alkali’ cements
• But: total alkali content in concrete is more important than alkali
level of cement itself
• Total alkali content = [alkali content of cement] x [cement content]
(strictly proportion of alkalis released during hydration and available for
reaction (termed ‘active alkalis’) – typically 85%)
Effect of cement alkalinity on ASR. Malmesbury coarse aggregate
(greywacke) in combination with different cements. Cement content of
concrete = 350 kg/m3.

Stored under ASTM C227

conditions above water in
sealed containers at 38 oC.
figures in brackets refer to
total per cent Na2O
equivalent of cement
(From Oberholster, 1986)
Necessary conditions for ASR
Reactive Silica
• ASR governed by nature and quantity of reactive silica present
– Glassy, amorphous silica highly reactive
– Crystalline varieties such as stable quartz not reactive
• Amount of reactive silica present also an important factor
• “Pessimum effect” - may or may not occur depending on type of
• Coarse aggregates seem to play dominant role

Environment and Moisture

• ASR required environmental presence of sufficient moisture
• Larger members even in drying environments may contain
sufficient internal moisture for ASR
Approaches to minimise risks of AAR
Recall: ASR needs: alkali source, reactive aggregate and
sufficient moisture to sustain reaction and induce expansion.
Thus, preventative measures must address one or more of
these factors.
1. Reduce alkali content: Where possible or practical, total
alkalis in a mix are limited to a certain lower limit, below which
risk of ASR is minimal (depending on environment of
Potential of concrete for alkali-silica reaction as
function of active alkali content of concrete
(After Oberholster, 2001)
Cement content of concrete (kg/m3)

> 3.8 kg alkalis/m3


< 1.8 kg alkalis/m3

0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0

Active alkalis in cement (% Na2Oe)
Approaches to minimise risks of AAR

2. Use of cement extenders: GGBS, FA, CSF

In SA, commonly accepted minimum proportions of SCMs in
concrete are:-
 GGBS 40-50 %
 Fly ash (FA) 20-30 %
 CSF 10-15 %
+ Mechanism of action of SCMs

3. Avoiding use of alkali-reactive aggregates

This also includes blending with a non-reactive aggregate
Thank You!
Slides 66 – 75 that follow are ‘optional extras’ –
to be used if needed. They cover:
• Assessing aggregates for potential ASR –
various tests
• Impact of AAR on structural properties of
Assessing aggregates for potential ASR

• Initial non-quantitative screening tests (for provisional

e.g. aggregate petrography - identifying possible
alkali- reactive minerals in aggregate
• Indicator tests to differentiate between potentially reactive and
innocuous aggregates e.g.
− Accelerated mortar bar test, ASTM C1260 (developed
in SA by Oberholster at CSIR in 1980s - SANS 6245)
− Monitoring expansion of mortar bars with test aggregate
immersed in 1M NaOH solution at 80°C for 12 to 14 days
• Performance tests - information on limiting alkali contents to
avoid damaging expansions
e.g. ASTM C1293: Concrete Prism Method:
Determination of potential ASR expansion of
cement-aggregate combinations;
RILEM TC 1910ARP (AAR-4): Ultra-accelerated concrete
prism test)
• Can be used to evaluate effect of SCMs on potential
• Drawback is that in general at least three months is
required in order to obtain meaningful results.
• Long-term structural monitoring of AAR-affected structures
Ultimate in performance tests.
Test Designation Material Test Standards Limitations and Remarks
and Purpose tested
Petrographic Coarse and ASTM C294 & Identification of potentially reactive
Examination. fine C295 constituents; characterisation of minerals in
aggregates, or BS 812: Part 104 aggregates.
rock cores BS 7943

Potential alkali reactivity Siliceous ASTM C289 Not recommended for greywacke, hornfels,
of aggregates (chemical aggregates, quartzite, granite, etc. Test shows some
method). crushed and aggregates to be innocuous when they are
Determination of sieved (150- known to have a poor service record.
potential reactivity of 300 m)
siliceous aggregates
Accelerated mortar bar Mortar prism ASTM C1260 Based on work at SA NBRI; used in USA
(mortar prism) test. with BS DD 249 and Canada, recommended by RILEM.
Determination of susceptible CSA: A23.2-25A Rapid test; generally reliable and
potential for deleterious aggregates; RILEM TC 191- reproducible, but there are exceptions Aggregate Assessment
alkali-silica reaction of specified ARP (AAR- 2)
aggregate in mortar bars grading (4.75 SANS 6245 for AAR (Excluding
mm - 150 μm) Carbonate Rock
Concrete Prism Method Concrete ASTM C1293 Actual mixes can be tested in proportions
Determination of the aggregates for BS 812: Part 123 specified; evaluate effect of SCMs; long
potential ASR expansion actual CSA A23.2-14A test duration required for meaningful The shaded section
of cement-aggregate construction. RILEM TC 191-ARP results.
combinations (AAR-3) represents most
Modified Concrete Prism Concrete CSA A23.2-14A Alternative rapid test to CSA A 23.2- commonly used tests
Method aggregates for (ASTM C1293) 14A.
Determining the potential actual Good correlation with standard test for worldwide at present
ASR expansion of construction. sedimentary and carbonate rocks.
Ultra-accelerated Concrete RILEM TC 191-ARP Used to assess reactivity performance of
concrete prism test prisms with (AAR-4) particular concrete mixes
aggregates for
Long-term structural Actual Inst. of Struc. Sometimes, structural monitoring is the
RILEM TC 106/TC 191 Integrated AAR Assessment Scheme
(Adapted from Sims and Nixon, 2003). Shaded boxes represent
those sections that have been published (2004)
AAR-0: Outline Guide

AAR-1: Petrographical
examination done?
Yes No
Class I Class II (or Class III)

Silica IIS (IIIS) Silica & Carbonate IISC (IIISC) Carbonate IIC (IIIC)

No further AAR-2 Mineral composition and texture

testing Ultra-accelerated mortar-bar test
required and or Rapid
AAR-4: Ultra-accelerated (60oC) AAR-5
Concrete prism test Accelerated expansion test

AAR-3 Long-term
Concrete prism test Reference

AAR-8: AAR-6: Diagnosis, prognosis,

Method for appraisal & repair
determining Diagnosis &
releasable AAR-7 Specifications
alkalis International Specification

• AAR in general has surprisingly small effect on

compressive strength – due to internal ‘redundancy’
of concrete as a material
• Greater effect on tensile strength – due to cracking
• Also has large effect on movement properties –
elastic modulus and creep
• Nevertheless, in many cases structural adequacy is
not severely compromised.
Reduction in compressive and indirect tensile
strength due to ASR expansion
(Adapted from Hobbs, 1988)

Reduction In:

Expansion Compressive Indirect Tensile

Strength Strength

0,1 - 0,2 % 0 – 25 % 20 – 25 %

0,3 - 1,0 % 20 – 65 % 20 – 30 %

>1,5 % >60 % -
Lower bound residual mechanical properties of
concrete affected by ASR as percentage of values
for unaffected concrete at 28 days
(From Oberholster, 2001, based on data in ISE, 1992)
Percentage of property as compared with unaffected
Property concrete,
for free expansion, percent

0.05 0.1 0.25 0.5 1.0

Compressive Strength* 100 85 80 75 70

Uniaxial compressive 95 80 60 60 -
Splitting tensile strength 85 75 55 50 -

Elastic modulus 100 70 50 35 30

**Core, length:diameter ratio = 2.5 or greater
Loss in elastic modulus and pulse velocity due to ASR
(After Swamy, 1994) ©Minister of Natural Resources Canada 1994, Reproduced with permission

Dynamic modulus of elasticity

Dynamic modulus of elasticity (GPa)

Ultrasonic pulse velocity

Ultrasonic pulse velocity (km/s)

∆ Control
40 ○ 15 % Silica Fume
□ 4.5 % Opal

20 2.0

0.05 % ASTM limit

0.1 % ASTM limit
0 0
0 0.4 0.8 1.2 1.6
Expansion (%)
Elastic and creep strains on (A) sound (undeteriorated)
and (B) & (C) ASR-deteriorated specimens
Concrete stressed to 15 MPa, half of design compressive strength
(After Blight et al, 1984)
Elastic + Creep Strain (x 10-6)




3000 (C)

0.1 1 10 50 100 300 500
Elapsed Time in Days
Thank You!